Dame Ngaio Marsh DBE (April 23, 1895 - February 18, 1982), born Edith Ngaio Marsh was an author and theatre director from New Zealand. There is some uncertainty over her birth date as her father neglected to register her birth until 1900, but she is believed to have been born in Christchurch on 23 April 1899. Marsh worked as an actress, theatrical producer and interior decorator before publishing her first novel, A Man Lay Dead, in 1934. This, and all subsequent novels, featured her series character Chief-Inspector Roderick Alleyn.
Mary Bellamy, ageing darling of the London stage, holds a 50th birthday party. But someone uses a deadly insect spray on Mary instead of on the azaleas. The suspects are playing the part of mourners. Superintendent Alleyn has to find out which one has played the part of murderer.